I remember the exact moment I realised 2017’s Love Island would win a Bafta: Theo Campbell’s pool jump. The 6ft5in sprinter was in the process of impressing Tyla Carr, after she bemoaned how boring her then-partner, Jonny Mitchell, was. As he cleared the length of the pool with ease, the villa, and viewers, erupted in cheers – while Jonny, a one-time fave turned public-enemy number-one, after spurning the nation’s sweetheart Camilla Thurlow for Tyla, glared from the kitchen counter eating nuts.
Last season’s Love Island (and the years before it) were filled with memorable, meme-able moments like this: from Zara Holland’s now-infamous teeth-lick after a night with Alex in the hideaway in season two to Rykard going full rom-com in series one and leaving the villa to be with Rachel to the one and only villa proposal courtesy John and Hannah in the same series, the stakes have always been high. But last years offering, with it’s hilarity, genuinely moving scenes, incredible editing within an incredibly tight period and appearance from Stormzy, set a new, impossibly high, standard. Unsurprisingly to anyone that actually bothered watching it, it was nominated for two Bafta’s and went on to win the award for best Reality & Constructed Factual.
“Chris showing off about his nice handwriting has got me good, mate,” journalist Sam Diss tweeted at last years finale. “I don't know what I'm supposed to do after tonight. These are my friends.”
Most of us felt invested in last years series at an almost embarrassing level. The making of these “friends” left the nation frothing at the mouth to meet and make some new ones. This year’s series promised to be bigger and better – no mean feat, given just how epic last year had been. I expected it to rank somewhere between the first two. But, now that the doors have closed on the villa for the last time, the soppy montages have been aired and Caroline Flack has finally slo-mo walked to the airport, can we admit this was the show’s worst offering to date?
As a loud and proud reality-TV connoisseur, it’s by no means snobbery that has led me to this conclusion, nor is it an “I liked it before it was cool” knee-jerk reaction to it’s new-found popularity. But anyone who has watched a series prior knows it’s by far the weakest link. The nation waited a whole year with baited breath and novelty Love Island bottles to hand for a series that would top them all. Think-pieces and write-ups were commissioned weeks before it even aired, teaser trailers garnering thousands of views as we chattered about what new slang we’d learn. The end result was an anti-climax of epic proportions. Our want for a repeat performance of last year led to a new-found need for the show, regardless of its actual content, to be talked about non-stop. In turn, hyper-awareness of discount codes, OK! magazine covers and infinite followers made the behaviour of the cast itself feel, for lack of better word, forced.
Think-pieces and write-ups were commissioned weeks before it even aired, teaser trailers garnering thousands of views as we chattered about what new slang we’d learn
It has been argued that this isn’t by any means Love Island specific – most shows turn to mush after their third innings. An article by The Atlantic four years ago debated the very same thing, in a piece asking why most shows peak at season 3:
“Lost. Sons of Anarchy. Grey’s Anatomy. 30 Rock. The Office. Justified. Glee. Parks and Recreation. They are some of the best, most celebrated, and longest-running shows of recent years,” the article begins. “But they also have something else in common: even their most ardent fans would agree that each of these shows had their strongest, most memorable seasons in the second or third year of their respective runs.”
In the piece, Mike Schur, the creator and executive producer of the Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine says he believes this is the case because, by that point, viewers have had a year to get to know the characters and are still in the “honeymoon period’, before they, in the words of season three’s Olivia Atwood, “get the ick”.
“And then after season three, everyone starts to go, ‘Eh, that show’s not as interesting as it was anymore.’ And it’s like, ‘Well you’ve been watching it for three years’,” Schur concluded.
While Schur may have a general point, Love Island is slightly different. The characters change yearly, and even Big Brother had at least seven series before it slumped (though, again, the less said about series four, the better). The expectations for Love Island this year were sky high, which no doubt has added to the disappointment, but key ingredients that made last year so satisfying to watch were amiss. No justice was served in this series, for instance. In 2016, when Terry Walsh trotted off with Emma-Jane Woodham, just days after “girlfriend” Malin Andersson’s departure, Malin was brought back into the house for a showdown that is yet to be topped. This year, when Adam Collard copped off with new girl Darylle in the wake of his beau Zara McDermott leaving, he was left to live out the rest of his time in the villa without a taste of his just deserts.
Character progression went the backward, too: while series one's Jess began the series as a deeply unlikeable mean girl, she ended it thoroughly matured and even went on to win it. This year, we saw Georgia go from that wonderful mate you make in the toilets who helps you zip up your dress to the second coming of “Muggy Mike”. It fell so short that viewers were even left grumpily comparing end of series pool dives.
“Do bits” just wasn’t quite the same as “muggy”. The girls didn’t do lie-detector tests. Danny Dyer didn’t even make it into the villa. Bar Jack “Black Jack” Fowler’s dancing and Laura’s impeccable ability to bounce back, the whole thing would have been unsalvageable. If there is one thing we can learn from this year’s Love Island, as we wait expectantly for the next, it’s simply don’t expect anything. That, and thank God the old series are all on Netflix.